Monday, February 08, 2010

RESIDENTS OF THE LOST CLUB: Showstar + The Victorian English Gentlemen's Club

‘Residents of The Lost Club’, the title of the opening track on their new album suggests Showstar are a troupe of wayward bohemians. Further listening to ‘Think Ringo’ shows the band to be a bit more grounded with domestic and mundane preoccupations: watching TV and arguing over which channel to watch, falling out with friends, playing in a battle of the bands. But all delivered without the gritty social realism of say Pulp, despite Showstar’s declared anglophile leanings.

This Belgian five-piece blend crisp 90s Britpop with sunny 90s US alt-pop – genres that both drew heavily on the sixties in their use of harmonies and strong melodies. So it is with Showstar: smartly-turned out and catchy rhythms, crisply jangly guitars and punchy-but-not-overpowering drums. In songs like ‘(Love)’ and ‘On The Telly’ it is a winning and engaging combination and calls to mind early Blur or Spoon, even Fountains of Wayne.

Apparently there is cynical malaise underneath their songs but this hasn’t come through strongly to my ears yet. What does impress is how tightly drilled and shiny-smart they sound. Which is explained when you realise they are now on their third album, with a slew of previous support slots (The Rakes, The Thrills, Maximo Park, The Charlatans) under their belt, and they made this record under the guiding hand of Gareth Paton (The Go Team, Foals, Pete And The Pirates, Beta Band amongst others).

‘Think Ringo’ is not original or ground-breaking, and in the second half the momentum sags somewhat, but there’s enough catchy and infectious power-pop on show to keep me coming back. In return for sharing your email address with Showstar you can get a free mp3 of first single ‘Gold Mine’.

Think Ringo [BUY]

Staying with the Belgian theme, The Victorian English Gentlemen’s Club released their third single from the excellent "Love On A Oil-Rig" album last week: ‘Bored in Belgium’. It was inspired by a Belgian man's suicide note, where he claimed it was merely 'boredom' that drove him to it: "Belgium has one of the highest suicide rates in Europe - while we were there we passed 'Happy Street', so named to tackle the issue. It was complete with signs asking people to smile at each one another as they passed in cars".

The single ( 7" vinyl and download with unreleased B-sides) is highly recommended as is the album it comes from. This ‘acoustic in Belgium’ video does not do it justice.


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